California county prepares for possible consolidation of services
Running a small, rural county with little revenue is a tall task during a time of fiscal uncertainty, but that is exacerbated when the county is located in a state with a $26 billion budget deficit. Such is the difficulty facing Glenn County, Calif., and it, like so many others in California, is considering consolidating — or regionalizing — services to save money.
County leaders already have had to make difficult decisions. In February, former Glenn County Child Support Services Department Director Caroll Ragland faced funding cuts that would have eliminated two of the four staffers who share about 2,200 cases annually. Ragland decided to retire early to save the positions.
Ragland said she is uncertain about the state’s rationale in reducing the budgets for child support enforcement departments in small counties such as Glenn, but she had a theory. “They want smaller counties to regionalize their services,” she said. “To me, [regionalization] makes no economic sense. I would have no local customer support. People would either have a 1-800 number or an Internet address.”
Ragland said one of the state’s possible alternatives is to station one person in the local welfare department, and another county would handle the legal work as necessary. Another county’s director would be managing the Glenn County staff, who would probably then be assigned to that other county, she said.
State budget cuts may force the county to regionalize its highway department, as well. County Administrative Officer David Shoemaker said the state is considering borrowing money from local governments, such as revenue generated from the highway users tax. Glenn County’s highway users tax funds much of its road maintenance, and without it, the county may have to share regional road services with nearby counties, he said.
Shoemaker knows the state’s dire financial situation makes consolidation or elimination of local services a distinct possibility, but he hopes it can be done in a prudent manner. “Trying to come up with $24 billion in savings to the state budget is going to be significant,” he says. “We are all going to have to make some concessions.”